During the COVID-19 lockdown, is it OK for trainee counsellors to offer email counselling?

Updated: Mar 29

There is no option at the moment to go out and see a counsellor in their office, so online counselling has surged.

However, in this lockdown it can be difficult for clients to find a regular time that is quiet and confidential to have counselling, especially if they have a house full of people. Not to mention having a strong enough internet connection if everyone in the house is watching Netflix!

With email counselling we get around this very easily and clients can write at a time that suits them. This therapeutic email exchange is very powerful.

With my recent blog series about email counselling this has seen a further surge in people enquiring about email counselling and fellow counsellors also asking me about it.

What I didn’t anticipate was the questions I would get from trainee student counsellors.

There are now thousands of trainee student counsellors suddenly left without a placement to gain experience working with clients in order to qualify. Since writing my blogs I have had a number of student counsellors contact me asking to volunteer to offer email counselling. This is a big issue for many reasons and I hope that a copy of my email reply I have been sending out is helpful for students in this situation to understand my reason for saying thank you, but NO.


Thank you for your message your email.

I am sorry to hear that your placement has had to be put on pause due to the Coronavirus. It sounds like your course leaders are doing all they can to try and help you keep up with your client hours. It's great that you are interested in email therapy. It is indeed a great way to work and I enjoy it very much. However, I need to let you know that it (like all other forms of online counselling) requires advanced specialist training. At this difficult time some qualified experienced counsellors are choosing to do some basic emergency training in online counselling so that they can 'hold' their clients at this time; however, I am sure many credible online counsellors would agree with me that it is not appropriate or ethical to switch your way of working to online counselling as a trainee.

Email counselling in particular is the most different from face-to-face counselling so even qualified counsellors are not being encouraged to do it at this time as it entails a completely new set of skills. I am very concerned at yo